Homily of Bishop Thomas Wenski at Mass of Welcome

08/22/03

Salve Regina, Mater Misericoridiae.

We gather in this beautiful shrine dedicated to Mary, Queen of the Universe. On this our patroness’s feast day, we seek her intercession for this local Church of Orlando that today welcomes me as coadjutor bishop. She is “our life, our sweetness, and our hope”.

I thank Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo for his presence here today. Archbishop Montalvo, as Apostolic Nuncio, represents the Pope here in the United States. Archbishop, please convey to the Holy Father my gratitude for his confidence in choosing me – in spite of my unworthiness – to serve as Bishop Dorsey’s coadjutor and as the future bishop of the wonderful people of Central Florida. Some of my feelings of apprehension about the responsibilities ahead of me are much relieved by knowing that in my introduction and orientation to the life of this local Church, I will have as a guide and mentor Bishop Dorsey. We have known each other since he arrived here in Florida 18 years ago. For 25 years, The Holy Father has guided the Universal Church with courage. He continues to inspire within us that same courage: “Be not afraid”, he has been telling us since the beginning of his pontificate. These words were addressed to Mary at the Annunciation. These same words are addressed to me and to each one of us today as we, in obedience to Christ, once more “put out into the deep”. We do so confident in Jesus’ promise: “I am always with you”. Christ is with us. He is alive in his Church in Orlando. This is our sure hope and therefore we are not afraid.

I also recognize the presence of His Eminence, Cardinal Swi?tek of Minsk, Belorus.
In Cardinal Swi?tek we have with us a living witness to the Faith of the millions of Catholics and other Christians who, in the last century, lived behind the iron curtain. They endured persecution, torture and imprisonment confident that hope in Christ would not disappoint. That hope was vindicated in that valley of tears that was the Soviet Union. On this feast day of the Queenship of Mary, August 22, 1991, the coup d’etat organized against Michael Gobachov failed. With that failure, the long night of communist oppression effectively came to an end. As our Holy Father constantly reminds us: in human history, there are no coincidences. All of history is guided by Divine Providence. The sighs, the mourning, the weeping of countless souls were heard. Through our most gracious advocate, the Virgin Mary’s powerful intercession, hope was reborn and the road to freedom reopened.

I welcome my brother bishops who gather here with Bishop Dorsey and myself. I thank Archbishop Favalora, our Metropolitan, for his presence here today. As his former auxiliary bishop, I thank him for his fatherly guidance and his pastoral leadership. Also I thank Bishops Roman and Fernandez for their friendship, their wisdom, their priestly witness shared with me when I served with them in the Archdiocese of Miami. Besides the Bishops who have joined us from Florida and from other places in the United States, I also welcome bishops who have come here from other countries.

I also wish to thank the priests of Orlando for the warm welcome they have given me today. I look forward to working with these devoted men of God for the care of souls. We will now share the cura animarum in this portion of the Lord’s vineyard that is made up of the nine counties of Central Florida. I greet them and our deacons and our seminarians. I greet the priests of Miami and of many other dioceses – including those who are visiting us from Haiti and Poland. They join us today in this celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice. With us, they ask Mary, Queen of the Universe, to pray for us – and for me, as I begin my service to the Church of Orlando. And as the coadjutor bishop of Orlando, I greet all the men and women of consecrated life and all of Christ’s faithful of the Orlando diocese. I thank you also for your warm welcome and for your prayers.

My Episcopal motto is taken from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: Omnia omnibus. All things to all Men. He became all things to all people in the hope of saving at least some. This, of course, is my mission in Orlando: to save souls for Christ (and hopefully, in the process, to save my own). I pray that, together with Bishop Dorsey and with the clergy and the laity, we will work together so that all peoples, all men and women, of every race and nationality, of every social class and walk of life will find in this Church of Orlando a home. For the Church is God’s household – through baptism we become members of this household – and all God’s children should feel at home in their Father’s house.

I also greet those of the faithful who have come up from Miami to “see me off”, especially those of my Haitian parishes where I served as parish priest for almost twenty years.

(Haitian Creole)

Frè ak sè m yo, kote nou? Mwen di nou mèsi pou tou sa nou te fè pou mwen. Lè m te travay nan mitan nou nan Miyami, se nou ki te moun vini. Jodi a, se mwen menm ki moun vini nan Orlando. Souple, lapriyè pou mwen. Sonje sa m te di nou sou ki jan chapo sa a mwen genyen sou tèt mwen rele an kreyòl. An bon jan kreyòl mwen ta di, chapo sa se twòkèt. Epi, si sa se twòkèt, sa vle di : (chay la deyè.) Jan pwovèb la di : men anpil, (chay pa lou.) Konsa, m a di nou : si nou lapriyè anpil, chay mwen pap lou. Paske, si lapriyè n yo monte, (gras la ap desann). Se pou gras Bondye a desann sou mwen, sou nou menm ak sou peyi nou. Epi se pou favè Bondye a desann sou tout moun Orlando, sitou sou ayisyen k ap viv bò isi a yo. Mwen kontan di nou premye moun ki te rekonèt mwen lè m te rive Orlando lòt jou a, se te yon ayisyen ki tap travay nan yon restoran kote mwen te al manje.

Epi, m kontan tou gen anpil ayisyen ki soti Miyami jounen jodi a pou mennen m ale.
Konsa, moun Orlando yo pral konnen mwen gen bonjan ouangann.

Today’s feast is a feast of hope. We celebrate the Queenship of Mary today. In Mary, whom St. Augustine described as “our fallen nature’s solitary boast”, the promises of Christ are already realized. Mary’s Crowning as Queen of Heaven and Earth is the last glorious mystery we contemplate in the recitation of the rosary. In meditating on this last mystery we remind ourselves that God is faithful, that God keeps his promises, that hope in Christ does not disappoint. In Mary, our Mother and our model, the “Church has already reached the perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle”. (Redemptoris Mater #47)

Mary – Queen of Heaven and Earth – announces the dawn of a new heaven and a new earth. In this, Mary is, for us all, a witness to hope, to the hope that does not disappoint.

Today’s feast reminds us of the future that God has planned for us – a plan that had existed from all time, a plan that, though at first frustrated by the sin of our first parents Adam and Eve, has now been brought to its completion through Mary’s Son. His coming among us as a man, his suffering, death and resurrection has gained for us eternal life.

Yes, God has created us –in his own image and likeness- so that we might share his life forever. This life – already begun for the believer in baptism and nourished through the sacraments – will reach its culmination one day when through God’s mercy we too will receive our own crown in the glory of heaven. Then, with Mary and the Saints, we too will see God face to face.

It is to this future we all have been called. It is this future that gives meaning and direction to our lives on this earth. As we learned in the Catechism of our youth: God made us to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this life and so to be happy with Him in the life to come.

It is this future – the promise of glory – that sustains our hope as we Christians sojourn in a world of broken promises and shattered dreams, a world of fragile peace and increasing inequality. Less we lose sight of that future God has promised us, we turn to her, who at the foot of the cross became our mother, Mary: to thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. And Mary answers our cry. She answers with one word – the word that constitutes the gospel of hope, the word that is also the blessed fruit of her womb: Jesus.

We cry out: Mary; and, she answers: Jesus. In showing us Jesus, she shows us the true hope of the world. And in imitation of Mary, who through her fiat became the first Christian, we, the Church, must make her answer our answer. In this way, we too become witnesses to hope. We witness to hope by offering the world the most precious good that no one else can give: namely faith in Jesus Christ, the source of the hope that does not disappoint.

Mary’s answer is the Church’s answer. Jesus is the answer that the Church has proposed to the world for two millennia. Jesus “the same, yesterday, today and forever” must be the answer that we, in the Church of Orlando, continue to propose with confidence at the beginning of the third millennium.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we live today in an age that can seem to be a time of bewilderment. Many men and women seem disorientated, uncertain, without hope, and not a few Christians share these feelings. (cf. Ecclesia in Europa #7). The cause of this anguish lies in our forgetting who we are and why we are and to what we have been called.

Our culture today is increasing under the sway of a radical secularism that attempts to promote a vision of man apart from God and apart from Christ. Without reference to transcendence– to the truth that God created us for himself, life becomes meaningless and unbearable – for man cannot live without hope. Such a culture, even if in some ways rich in goods, becomes poor in the Good. It is a culture with no future, a culture without hope, a culture of death.

The casualties of such a culture are seen in the breakup of families and indeed in the very idea of marriage and family life. In such a culture, abortion and contraception symbolize the refusal to embrace the future with hope. Such a culture without reference to God and to man’s spiritual destiny leads to lives lost in addiction, to the corruption of ethical behavior in business and politics, to a cynical hedonism that destroys trust between men and women. Such a culture leads to a world of obscene wealth in the midst of dehumanizing poverty. It leads to contempt for the sick, the weak, the elderly as seen in the promotion of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

The world needs Christ – and because the world needs Christ, the world needs us to speak of Christ. Like Mary at the wedding feast of Cana, we must not hesitate to speak to the world and to tell the world: “Do whatever he (Jesus) tells you”.

For this reason, the Church cannot be afraid to speak as Mary spoke at Cana. We have a proposal to make, we have something to say, we have a word to share with the world and that word is Jesus. For Jesus reveals the truth about man, about our dignity, about our destiny. Jesus is the Truth that gives us hope. Jesus is the Truth that makes us free.

As Catholics we do not need to apologize for making Mary’s words our own, “Do whatever he tells you.” For this is our way to contribute to building up a “city worthy of man”. To propose our views is not to impose them. But we would fail in our duty to the gospel of hope if we did not propose – to re-propose – in a world has lost its reference to the Divine – the truth about man, the truth about marriage and the family. This is a service of love that the Church offers the world. We would fail in our duty to our Lord and to our neighbor if we did not offer the service of love in educating young people, engaged couples and families themselves to live and spread the Gospel of life, fighting against the “culture of death”.

To a world seeking meaning and direction in life, to our young people who wonder if it is possible to make a permanent commitment to marriage or to a life of religious consecration, to our elderly living in isolation and loneliness, to the poor seeking the dignity of a place at the table of human solidarity, we must be witnesses of hope.

To witness to hope, we must speak clearly and coherently. And what we say must be accompanied by actions. For this reason, as Mary tended to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, so to the Church today must as she has always done put herself at service of charity – for through her works of charity and the promotion of human dignity and human rights, the Church continues to nourish a culture of solidarity. We must in the words of our Holy Father “stake everything on charity” so that– the unemployed, the sick, the isolated or abandoned elderly, the homeless, our marginalized youth, immigrants and refugees – all the poor – find in the Church that wayside inn where the Good Samaritan brought the one who fell among robbers to be restored to health. It is solidarity – the conviction that we are our brother’s keeper – that will give renewed hope to the poor.

Servir al evangelio de la esperanza: esta es la misión de la Iglesia aquí en esta Diócesis de Orlando. La Iglesia desempeña esta misión, acompañando el anuncio de la esperanza con iniciativas concretas de caridad. Es lo que ha sucedido a lo largo de los siglos: la tarea de la evangelización ha sido sostenida por una eficaz acción de promoción humana. Poniéndose al servicio de la caridad, la Iglesia ha alimentado y alimenta la cultura de la solidaridad,

Hace falta también hoy «devolver la esperanza a los pobres», porque acogiéndolos y sirviéndolos, se acoge y se sirve a Cristo mismo (cf. Mt 25, 40). Pobres son hoy tantas categorías de personas, entre ellas los desempleados, los enfermos, los ancianos solos o abandonados, los que no tienen una vivienda, los jóvenes marginados, los inmigrantes y los prófugos.

Servicio de amor es, además, volver a proponer con fidelidad la verdad del matrimonio y de la familia, y educar a los jóvenes, los novios y las familias mismas para que vivan y difundan el «evangelio de la vida», luchando contra la «cultura de la muerte». Sólo con la aportación de todos se puede construir una “ciudad digna del hombre” y un orden internacional más justo y solidario.

Que María, Madre de la esperanza ayuden a la Iglesia a ser en el centro de la Florida testigo de la caridad activa, que «es una acertada síntesis de un auténtico servicio al Evangelio de la esperanza» (cf. Ecclesia in Europe, 104).

It is through lives changed by grace can we proclaim that gospel with knowledge and conviction. In witnessing to hope, we can convince the world that the way of Jesus is the way of true freedom; in witnessing to hope, we can convince the world that the life of Jesus is the life of true happiness. In witnessing to hope, we can convince the world that the truth of Jesus reveals the truth about God and the truth about humanity’s future in God. By our love for each other in the communion of the Saints and by our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in seeking to build a better world, we give witness to the Hope that does not disappoint – Jesus Christ.

We must be witnesses of hope – even in spite of our own failures and sins. The scandals that have shamed and saddened us are not reason for us to give into discouragement or to lose hope. Indeed they call us to a more humble hope – a hope that trusts only in God. Such hope will not cause us to despair when confronted with our own human frailty and sin – indeed such hope can bring us to seek and to find forgiveness.

This hope is sustained by our participation in the Eucharist, which makes us the Church – for in receiving the Body of Christ truly present in the consecrated bread and wine; we become Christ’s Body. This communion in the Lord is for us the pledge of future glory. It is the source of our hope as Catholic Christians.

Pope John Paul II reminds us in Ecclesia de Eucharistia: “Every commitment to holiness, every activity aimed at carrying out the Church’s mission, every work of pastoral planning, must draw its strength it needs from the Eucharistic mystery and in turn be directed to it as its culmination. In the Eucharist we have Jesus, we have his redemptive sacrifice, we have his resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience and love of the Father.” (#59)

May this Eucharist that begins my service to the Church in Orlando help me overcome my own deficiencies. May each celebration of the Mass bring us all a growth in grace, a renewal in commitment, a healing of our sinfulness so that through Him and with Him and in Him we make give the Father all glory and honor today and forever. Amen.

Salve Regina, Mater Misericordiae
(Polish)
Witaj, Królowo, Matko mi?osierdzia,
?ycie, s?odyczy i nadziejo nasza, witaj.

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy
Our life, our sweetness and our hope!

(Portuguese)
A vós bradamos os desgradados filhos de Eva,
A vós suspirando, gemendo e chorando neste vale de lágrimas

To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve
To these do we send us our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

(Filipino)
Ilingon mo sa amin ang mga mata mong maawain.
At saka kung matapos na yaring pagpanaw mo sa amin,
Ipakita mo sa amin ang iyong Anak, na si Hesus.

Turn then, most gracious advocate,
Thine eyes of mercy toward us,
And after this our exile,
Show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus

(Vietnamese)
Kinh chao Nu Vuong Nguon lan twat hy vong ngot ngao
Vui song. Kinh chao Nu Vuong.

O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

Ruega por nosotros, Santa Madre de Dios…
Lapriyè pou nou, Manman Mari ki sen….

Pray for us, Most Holy Mother of God,
That we made be made worthy of the promises of Christ.